Smith Says

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Warning: What follows is a rant.
With a debut weekend of $80 million, the movie, “Oz the All-Powerful” is breaking box office records. I’m breaking my neck to stay away. Why? Because the original “Wizard of Oz” is the most awful movie ever filmed, and this comes from someone who’s seen every Adam Sandler movie twice. (What can I say? I love him.)
I saw WOZ first when I was five, and it marked me for life.
Where to start? First, there’s the hateful Miss Gulch (the Wicked Witch’s alter ego.) She bundles Toto in her bicycle basket, because he nipped her, and pedals off to his presumed death. When the tornado strikes we see her suspended in mid-air, still pedaling implacably past Dorothy’s window. What could be more wrenching to a child than seeing a puppy carted off to his doom? Horrifying. Absolutely horrifying.
Then there’s the money shot: The flying monkeys. When they appeared with their wizened, evil faces and leathery wings, it was scary. Then they began flying like giant bats and I went, in a word, berserk. My father had to carry me, screaming hysterically, from the room. (I was screaming, not Dad, although he probably wanted to after spawning such a drama queen.)
I did not watch WOZ again for a good 10 years. When I did, it was still terrifying. The ugly, vicious witch under a house with her crooked, dying legs. The odd companions who lead Dorothy further from the safety of Kansas to a bizarre land populated by freaks. The Wizard’s huge, green disembodied floating head.
That was it for me. I washed my hands of the Wiz. I hear old Dot found her way back home, but I’ve never seen the end.
Years later, sometime in my 20s, I confessed to a group of friends that I was never able to sit through what is often hailed as the greatest children’s film of all time.
“I ran out when the scarecrow caught on fire,” said one, visibly shaken at the memory. “It was too sad, Dorothy being an orphan,” another whispered. That’s when I realized, with sweet relief, that I wasn’t alone. I imagine it’s how people with webbed toes feel when they spot similar feet at the beach.
Over the years I’ve read several news stories about folks—apparently we are legion--who are terrified of WOZ. No-one’s ever contacted me, but I could give ‘em an earful.
Who thought this was a suitable kids’ flick? It’s disturbing. It’s violent. It features nightmares verging on hallucinations. If this is OK for tots, then Oliver Stone and Steven Segal should collaborate on bedtime stories.
“Willy Wonka” is a classic children’s film. So is “Pippi Longstocking,”  “The Jungle Book” and “The Magic of Lassie.” (I started to include “Oliver Twist,” before I remembered that the brutal Bill Sikes beats his girlfriend to death.)
I’ve read Felix Salten’s “Bambi” several times, but have never seen the movie because I know Bambi’s mother dies and I. Just. Can’t.
I did watch “Old Yeller” before I read the book, and cried for two days. It also left me with a lifelong terror of contracting rabies, lest I too be confined to a corncrib and shot.
My point being, not even free popcorn and James Franco’s gleaming smile could entice me to see anything related to “The Wizard of Oz.” I’d rather watch “The Water Boy” for the fourth time. And I think I will.
Julie R. Smith, who is obviously irrational about the Wizard, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com.


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